Fifth Circuit mostly upholds that wingnut anti-birth control ruling

A tale as old as time, the Fifth Circuit doing terrible things.

The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a Texas law requiring parental consent to obtain contraception for minors.

The decision from a three-judge panel of the federal appeals court in New Orleans largely affirms a 2022 ruling from U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk in Amarillo, that ended one of the only avenues for Texas teens to confidentially obtain birth control, through federally funded family planning clinics. Since 1970, the federal Title X program has provided free contraception to anyone regardless of age, income or immigration status.

The 5th Circuit panel, which heard the case last year, found parental consent required for minors’ medical treatment under the Texas Family Code does not conflict with federal law that allows U.S. teens to obtain contraception confidentially at federally-funded family planning clinics.

“Moreover, Title X’s goal (encouraging family participation in teens’ receiving family planning services) is not undermined by Texas’s goal (empowering parents to consent to their teen’s receiving contraceptives),” wrote Judge Stuart Kyle Duncan. “To the contrary, the two laws reinforce each other.”

The decision, from Duncan and Circuit Judges Priscilla Richman and Catharina Haynes, mostly affirms the findings by Kacsmaryk, who ruled that the Title X program violates parents’ rights and state and federal law. Texas law requires minors to get parental permission before obtaining medical treatment but Title X clinics were previously exempt from that law.

The case was filed by Jonathan Mitchell, a former Texas solicitor general, the legal architect behind the 2021 Texas law that banned abortion after the sixth week of pregnancy.

Mitchell represented Alexander Deanda, an Amarillo father who said he raised his three minor daughters in accordance with his Christian beliefs to abstain from premarital sex. Although Deanda didn’t show that his daughters obtained birth control without his consent, he still argued that the program violated his rights as a parent in Texas.

Under Title X, clinics are to “encourage family participation…to the extent practical.” Federal courts have repeatedly held that clinics cannot require parental consent.

U.S. Department of Justice attorneys had argued in 2022 and again last year in New Orleans that Deanda had no standing to bring the case forward. The three-judge panel ruled Deanda did have standing because the program prevents him from exercising his parental rights to consent to his child’s medical care.

The three-judge panel did reverse part of Kacsmaryk’s ruling. The district judge had struck down a regulation that barred Title X-funded groups from notifying parents or obtaining consent. The 5th Circuit said it was too soon to rule on the new regulation.


The decision could have ripple effects across the country if other states adopt similar parental consent policies, said Lucie Arvallo, executive director of Jane’s Due Process, an organization that helps young people access abortions and contraceptives.

“We know from over two decades of working with teens that young people will frequently include parents in their reproductive health care decisions, but for some, parental involvement and legal decisions like this one are insurmountable barriers,” Arvallo said. “Teens should be able to access birth control, no matter their circumstances or where they live.”

Arvallo added that abortion rights groups will likely be hesitant to appeal the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court, which in 2022 revoked a constitutional right to abortion. She said a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that affirms the 5th Circuit’s decision could decimate teen access to birth control nationwide.

See here, here, and here for the background. The ruling on standing makes me want to smash things. I am famously Not A Lawyer but even I know that you have to have suffered some kind of injury, or be in a position to be injured, in order to sue over something. This guy is just mad that his daughters had an option that he didn’t like, even though they never used it. By this same logic, he could have sued, say, the Bravo channel for running those filthy Real Housewives shows that he forbids his daughters from watching, because maybe they could secretly watch them at a friend’s house. How was this not clear-cut? I mean, surely there’s some other asshole control freak whose daughter did defy him to serve as a plaintiff. I’d say I don’t understand, but I understand all too well.

This is a reminder of two things. One, as I’ve said before and will keep saying, they’re coming for birth control. Both judge and lawyer in this case were key players in the mifepristone ruling, and you know they’ll be back for more. And two, as promising as that proposed rule change to stop judge-shopping may be, it can’t do anything about a lawless group of appellate judges who don’t care about facts or precedent. Until we take a broom to the Fifth Circuit, we’re still going to get plenty of shit legal rulings out here. Maybe there’s a chance we can do something about that after this election. But only if Biden wins, and not just him. There’s a lot to do this year. Law Dork goes deep into the opinion and its many troubling aspects, and the Chron and the Texas Signal have more.

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6 Responses to Fifth Circuit mostly upholds that wingnut anti-birth control ruling

  1. David Fagan says:

    There needs to be more people who want to be a part of raising their children. What parent wants their child making those decisions without them? Thinking “well. I believe MY child would come to ME. But, someone ELSE’S child should be able to do whatever they want without their parent’s knowledge.” is a dash of the self righteousness that Deanda is probably being accused of.

    If a parent is responsible for the actions of their children, being school attendance, curfews, or some horrendous act like we’ve seen played out on the national news lately, then parent’s should expect to be a part of reproductive decisions as well.

  2. Kenneth J Fair says:

    Nothing’s going to happen with respect to the Fifth Circuit until Durbin pulls his head out and stops enforcing the “blue slip” rule.

  3. C.L. says:

    I’m guessing David doesn’t have any offspring.

  4. Meme says:

    If things were only so simple, David.

    I see the mayor will ask the judge to allow for a debt for many years past how many years the mayor will serve. It seems like that’s what they all do: kick the debt down the road for someone else to fix.

  5. Joel says:

    I find myself wondering which of his political party memberships inspires DF’s position on laws about accessing contraception. Because it doesn’t seem consistent with the ideologies of ANY of the parties he has previously espoused here.

  6. David Fagan says:

    Joel, does anyone need to follow the values of a political party? Or have values established outside of political parties? I don’t agree with adopting a political party’s values just because of political alignment, or the desire thereof.

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